It was a celebration of sorts in 2018 when a group of four progressive women of colour, mostly in their thirties and all below 50 swept through the polls and got elected to the US House of Representatives. For many it was a breath of fresh air and representative of what some see as the emerging demographics of the United States. When in the 116th US Congress, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez sponsored House Resolution 109 introducing the Green New Deal, I instantly became a groupie. Like many others, I thought she was brilliant, no-nonsense and ready for work. It wasn’t too long however, before the honeymoon was over and we now confront a new set of worries. The fear of where this motley crew of Benie Sanders-inspired neo-liberals referred to as “the squad” are driving us and moderate Democrats.
As far as the squad is concerned it appears that the time-tested wisdom of learning the ropes or listening first doesn’t apply. They seem too eager to overthrow the old order ,courting controversies at every turn and relishing the spotlight.
Speaking late last before a room of wealthy liberal donors, former President Barack Obama made the now famous remark that an average American doesn’t want to ‘Tear Down The System’. It was a subtle warning by the party’s biggest star. Aware of his place in the mix, he had threaded with caution not to insert himself in a crowded Democratic primary race. But this was not the first time Mr. Obama had to break his silence when he feels strongly about the issues as stake.
He was worried about the elevation to the mainstream, the far left-leaning activist wing of the party represented by Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Alexia Ocasio-Cortez. He was concerned by such utterances urging voters to embrace “political revolution” and “big, structural change,” as well as those widely considered extreme far left proposal such as court packing and decriminalising illegal border crossings. Most importantly, he was fighting for moderates like me to still have a place in the Democratic Party.
Many years after the publication of his famous work, Das Kapital, the political and philosophical thought espoused by Karl Max came to inspire the Great October Revolution of 1917 leading to the overthrow of the Czarist monarchy in far away Russia. It was also called the Bolshevik Revolution and at the core of it was the belief that the working classes would, at some point, liberate themselves from the economic and political control of the ruling classes. It all sounded very good and promising at the time and different version of it were duplicated in many parts of the world. After so many years of living under extreme economic and political hardship during the Cold War, it became clear that the old Soviet was unsustainable and was ready to move on. Thanks to the American inspired twin policies of Perestroika and Glasnost introduced by the then President Mikhail Gorbachev that opened the door to the disintegration of the Soviet Union and ultimately the birth of modern Russia.
Today, economist are almost unanimous in the belief that the world has witnessed a steady growth in capital. Unfortunately however, these resources are not fairly disribtuted but skewed in favour of the top one percent. A lot has been said about the rapid growth in technology and artificial intelligence causing machine to replace humans in the work place as one reason.
Open border trade policies and outsourcing has particularly hit workers in western nations disprorportionately harder. Whatever the case may be, this has resulted in rising income inequality that sometimes have the super wealthy pitted against the rest of us. Many nation states today are attempting to address the challenges by appropriating wealth in a manner that is fair and just to all. In such a way that also will not destroy the individual incentive to work hard and grow more wealth.
There are certain things that are uniquely America, namely; the love for gun and free enterprise. Remove those two things and she will just be like Canada or any other country in Western Europe. The point here is not to claim American superiority over those other countries but to highlight the differences in national identities. Whereas it’s hard to argue that guns have served this country well, that cannot be said of America’s free enterprise capitalist system. For that’s the reason why most disruptive and ground breaking technologies are birthed here. It’s the same system that produced the greatest and most prosperous nation on this planet with all its flaws. It’s very true that every system has to be tweaked in time so as to stay relevant in a changing world. That said, America is not looking for Democrats to reinvent the wheel. In an attempt to do that, they will be loosing a whole lot of us in droves. Even the current madness in the White House will not stop the exodus.
If there is any silver lining in the election of Donald Trump, for the Democrats it’s the fact that he gave them reason to unite. It doesn’t matter the ideological devide within. All factions are unanimous in the goal to defeat Trump and send him packing from the White House. The first fruit of that unity was the so-called Blue Wave that handed them a comfortable majority in the lower house. Then their is also the Independents, totally unamused by all the presidential drama voting alongside. But then, it does seems like the Democratic party has a way of overplaying her hand and causing victory slip through the fingers most times.
As Democrats gear up in readiness for the Primaries, this is one more opportunity to get it right.
•Agbo, MD, FCCP writes from Houston, the United States